The key to winning the battle against mediocre and unproductive living is a commitment to living outside of the “boxes” in which we find ourselves. And there are plenty of boxes to consider.
The most influential box is that of popular culture. What people expect us to do - what we think we are supposed to do – what the culture says we should do - can all easily become self-imposed pressures that can kill us! The forces of cultural, social and even religious expectations are so strong that we can forfeit our individuality and our right to choose without even knowing it. I am not an advocate of abandoning tradition simply for the sake of it. Nor do I condone thumbing our noses at the beliefs that have sustained us through the years. But it is important for us to carve out our own strategies and not let “group think” become a substitute for our personal responsibility to make independent choices.
This means that the newest styles or lifestyles may have to be rejected if we are to realize the potential that we possess to accomplish our goals. Too many people live within boundaries set for them by others rather than setting their own boundaries based on their own beliefs and goals. Only God’s boundaries should matter as we make our own moral boundaries.
Another box that we may have to consider leaving is our family box. When young David was preparing to slay Goliath, it was his oldest brother Eliab who tried to discourage him from going forward. David’s brother only saw him as the little shepherd boy that he knew. He did not see him as a giant killer. Because our family members know us best, they can be the very people who see no future for us beyond the past that they know. If we let them do so, they will keep us in their little boxes and we will never outgrow their perceptions of us. It was a good thing David refused to stay in his family box. All of Jewish history might have been different had he stayed in the box. He would have never slain Goliath.
The most difficult box to escape is the box of our personal fears. Whether it is the fear of speaking in public, the fear of making a commitment or the fear of personal failure, all of us have fears. There is no universal way to overcome a fear. For each of us the approach is different. But there is one thing that is the same for anyone who decides to overcome a fear. The only way to overcome a fear is to confront and engage that which we fear. Fear cannot be thought away – prayed away – smiled away – cried away – or wished away. Fear must be confronted by forcing ourselves to do that which we fear until we no longer fear it. Otherwise we will live in the box of fear for the rest of our lives.
Our boxes are only as strong as we allow them to be.